Hot List: Day 51 of the Legislature

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The Lead:

It was Grammy day at the Capitol apparently, with the Josh Abbott Band and Paul Wall’s famous mouth jewelry appearing in the Senate chamber yesterday morning. Meanwhile, lawmakers discussed a ban on texting while driving, restrictions on abortion drugs and scaling back Texas’ STAAR test requirements.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. The House Transportation Committee heard testimony on HB 63, authored by Rep. Tom Craddick (R-Midland), which would ban texting while driving in Texas. The hearing was an emotional one–victims and family members of victims of distracted driving testified to horrific stories of negligence, the Observer’s Emily Mathis reports.

2. The Senate Health and Human Services committee discussed the latest controversial legislation penned by Dan Patrick (R-Houston), SB 97, which would limit the use of abortion drug RU-486. The bill would increase physician requirements for administering the drug and limit its accessibility to women in rural areas. The Observer’s Forrest Wilder has the details.

3. According to the Statesman, Gov. Rick Perry said yesterday that he supports re-evaluating the state’s high-stakes STAAR tests required for graduation from high school. Welcome to the bandwagon, governor.

Line of the Day:

“Essentially this is the Legislature practicing medicine without a license.” —Dr. Al Gros, an OB/GYN, at yesterday’s Senate Health and Human Services Committee hearing, blasting restrictions on RU-486 as medically and scientifically unsupportable.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The House Public Health Committee will hear public testimony this morning on two critical food bills. Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Canton) has HB 46,  which would allow licensed dairy farmers to sell raw milk through fairs, private arrangement and home delivery. (The law currently requires customers to drive to the farm when they want to buy raw milk.) and HB 910, which was sponsored by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham). The debate over expanding access to raw milk has been fierce the past few sessions—with proponents saying raw milk is healthier than pasteurized milk, and public health advocates warning of food-borne illness.

2. The House State Affairs Committee is scheduled to discuss a constitutional amendment by Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) that would impose term limits on the Legislature and the governor. Texas currently has no term limits, which is why Rick Perry has been in office for what seems an eternity.  The committee will also hear HB 524, authored by Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake), which would require disclosure of elected officials’ contracts with government entities. Sounds like a reporter’s dream.